Thirty years and 7 hours ago I took 20p and went to a phone box that no longer exists to call an aunt who is no longer alive to tell her that her mother was very ill.
My grandmother, Flo, died about an hour after my aunt, Michelle, arrived.
The early 1990s were a strange time, coming to terms with the loss of a grandparent who had been a major figure in my life, changes in routine because Mum still had to work, and indeed took on several jobs to make ends meet.
An annoying part of my job is trying to convince people to give me money to do the things I’m doing anyway. We’re graded in effect by how much we spend, if we do cheap science with the only spend being on consumable items we are graded poorly. Most of the science I do is pretty cheap, the capital costs have already been paid, so it’s cheap to carry on with the equipment.
To really hit the high points in science you need to be spending vast sums. You can’t spend what you don’t have, so you need to apply for grants.
The pot of money available to be awarded is small (compared to government spending on just about anything else) and way over subscribed. Any particular application for money has somewhere between 1/10 and zero chance of getting funded. Money tends to go to money, so if you’re starting with zero your chance of getting any more tends towards zero too.
We just got turned down for a big grant. It would have funded some very cool science and half a dozen new researchers at the start of their careers for three years. The effort that went into the application was on the order of a human-month. Personally I spent about 3 days on it, others spent far longer. Time that could have been spent doing research.
It’s basically a scam. One we have to keep playing and trying on the off-chance it pays out in our favour and we can start the next project and think about writing the next application.
A failed application is worth about 0.1 of a brownie point to the powers that be, so I won’t be out on my ear yet. I just need to apply for lots more grants, at several days each and keep the the research and keep up the teaching and everything else. It’s a good thing time is elastic and we can easily add as many hours to the day and days to the week as we like, isn’t it?
It was going to to happen sooner or later, my good luck backed by distance, masks and hygiene couldn’t last forever. I’ve got a cold. I’m not sure where or how I contracted it, which is annoying as that lapse in my defences could have let in something rather more nasty. The cold came mid week in my first week back at work after two weeks holiday on the Northumbria coast (had intended to write about it here, forgot and enjoyed it instead).
I’ve manage to go nearly two years without feeling this dreadful.
I have a head full of cotton wool at the moment, so the above might not make sense.
The grapevine has not done well this year – well, that’s true; the vine itself has done very well, with many new shoots that needed pruning and several hundred tiny grapes formed. My complaint is with the size of the grapes, they are all far too small to be useful for anything. In fairness this is only the vine’s third year. I’ll see how it does next year and see what feeding and pruning treatments I need to give it.